Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Money, Obama, and Gadgets

A few more musings from the African continent. I head into Zambia tomorrow and will work my way down to Livingstone, where Sister is currently living and working. My folks and Brother come to the continent on Monday. Yes, the Griswolds take Africa. The next blog is sure to be a doosey.

  • If Obama ever gets depressed about his approval rating in the US, he should just schedule a state visit to an African country. They love him over here. I've seen t-shirts, hats, bags, and even bubble-gum with his face plastered on them.
  • ATMs give you money in denominations of $5 equivalent bills. I get around $200 out at a time, since that usually lasts me a week or so. This means it spits out 40 notes and I feel like a millionaire walking around with all that dough. I can't wait to get to Zimbabwe and get a billion dollar note...
  • There are hundreds of different languages in each of the countries I'm visiting. However, there is one word that seems to be used in all of them: MZUNGU, it's Swahili for "white person." The plural is WZUNGUS.
  • In Malawi, there is such a lack of a tourism infrastructure that I have yet to find a place to buy a single picture postcard. There are handmade ones you can buy in the markets, but good luck finding what we'd consider a normal picture postcard. Sorry, folks. You're not getting a card from this country.
  • In 1994, with the stepping down of Dr. Banda, Malawi's "President for Life," the official dress code for the country was eliminated. Thank gooodness, because I really don't think I would have fared well in a country where women can't wear trousers. Of course, I still dress conservatively so as not to offend. And I won't be looking for love while in this particular African nation - an "unnatural offence" carries a sentence of 14 years in prison. No thanks.
  • I've done a fair amount of travel in the last year and I've been seriously helped with a few techonological devices that weren't even invented 10 years ago. With me I carry an iPod (enourmously useful for buses that play obnoxious music or falling asleep in noisy dorm rooms), a digital camera (15 years ago it would have been near impossible to share photos of my adventures while still adventuring halfway around the world), an iPhone (the leisure of being able to download new podcasts when I reach wifi spots is pretty fantastic), and a Kindle (carrying a few ounces worth of 20 books). Of course, with each gadget comes a risk of getting it stolen, lost, or damaged. I am sad to report that my Kindle (the second one, since the first one died in Thailand) ceased to function properly this morning. So while it has been nice so far, I'm now without access to several e-Books I purchased for this trip. Good thing the 3rd world still believes in second hand books. I stocked up on 4 new reads for a little under $8. Phew.


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